With MTS Turkmenistan having finally re-launched services, Tass-Telecom is reporting that the cellco has already exceeded the number of sign-ups that it previously indicated it aimed to see by the end of this year. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, ahead of resuming operations MTS Turkmenistan’s parent company, Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), revealed that it was setting targets for its Turkmen unit, stating that it was hoping to have 440,000 customers on its books by the end of 2012. This target, however, was surpassed just a few hours after the cellco came back online, with the report claiming that by the end of the first day back in operation MTS Turkmenistan had re-connected more than half a million subscribers. The cellco is understood to have focused on reactivating those customers that already have its SIM cards and lost service after its licence was suspended, but looking ahead, it is understood that MTS Turkmenistan will start selling new SIMs from the start of October.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, MTS Turkmenistan’s services had been offline since the initial one-month suspension of its licence in December 2010. Despite the cellco having been quick to claim that its concession was not due to expire until February 2012, and contrary to its expectations of being back online by end-January 2011, that month the Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) publicly stated that the operating agreement it signed with MTS in 2005 was only valid for five years. The Ministry expanded further on the reasons for its non-renewal of MTS’ licence in March 2011, claiming that among its reasons were allegations that the cellco had charged ‘unreasonably high tariffs’ and failed to reinvest sufficient levels of its profits in its infrastructure. Reports in May 2012 however claimed that a deal had been reached with the Turkmen authorities which would allow the former market leader to re-enter the sector. Subsequently it was confirmed last month that MTS Turkmenistan had ‘received licences and obtained legal and technical conditions for operations in the country’.